Lille … a delightful French town …. So too certainly at Christmas …

You’ve seen what there is to see in Paris and around Paris – Versailles, Fontainebleau, Chartres etc etc etc. So, what else is there to see? Where can you go without having to break open your piggy bank, because a day-trip is quite possible. The answer: the town of Lille. Lille with 226,827 inhabitations for […]

Lille at Christmas 2017 (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

You’ve seen what there is to see in Paris and around Paris – Versailles, Fontainebleau, Chartres etc etc etc.

So, what else is there to see? Where can you go without having to break open your piggy bank, because a day-trip is quite possible.

The answer: the town of Lille.

Lille’s La Voix du Nord daily building (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Lille with 226,827 inhabitations for its inner administration area, and a population of just over a million for its total urban area, ranks as France’s fifth largest city after Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse.

However, do not let statistics put you off: Lille is very much still the ‘small town’ in heart and in soul. You can wander around along narrow winding streets, many in the ‘old town’ sector now pedestrianised and bordered by small boutiques, stop for a drink or a snack or a meal in a small café where service will be fast but where you could sit for as long as you wish to, or need to, and to use the toilet. (France is annoyingly short of public toilets!)

Me in one such snack bar (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

I visited Lille on Friday, December 1 this year (2017). It was a day-trip by train from Paris.

I took the TGV (fast) train from Paris’s Gare du Nord and arrived in Lille after 59 minutes.

Lille has two railway stations: Lille Europe and Lille Flanders.

My train came in at Lille Europe, a modern station constructed with the Eurostar train and the Thalys trains in mind. I was on neither, but the SNCF (French state-owned rail company) sometimes schedules other mainline trains to come in at that station too. Returning to Paris though my train left from Lille Flanders station, this one being a typical French railway station looking very much like any railway station of Paris.

The two stations are within a 10-minute walk from each other and both are close to the centre of town. If you really have a problem walking then there are buses running from the station to all over Lille at  € 1,80  per ride.

I chose to visit Lille in December, cold as it was – it had snowed the day and night before and the streets and pavements were slippery – because it is the month of Christmas markets and Christmas street and shop decorations. And vow, Lille is excelling itself in order not to let anyone forget it was Yuletide!

Lille Cmas Scene, and that is real ice! (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Yuletide 2017 Lille (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The Christmas Market is on Place Rihour. So by the way is the Lille Tourist Office: the staff speak English and all are eager to answer one’s questions!

The market, in its 28th year, this year has 28 chalets where one can buy anything from belts and boots and shapkas to toys and bottles of wine and cheese and dried sausages. Or you can buy a snack from one of the stalls and enjoy it  standing up or walking around, or you can buy something more filling like snails (escargots) or oysters  or the local speciality of mussels and French fries (moules frites) and sit down in a heated covered area.

The market opened on Friday November 17 and closes on Wednesday, December 27.

It opens up weekdays at 11 a.m. and remains open until 8 p.m. and on weekends it opens at 10 a.m. and stays open on a Friday until 9 p.m. and on a Saturday and Sunday night until ten.

Lille has a second Christmas attraction: its Big Wheel and a Christmas Tree of 18 metres, and then also several wintery Yuletide scenes, Father Christmas figuring in each of them. These are on Grand Place, a few metres from Place Rihour.

Lille Big Wheel (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The street Christmas lights go on as soon as darkness falls: in winter this is around 4 p.m.

Lille night Cmas scene (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

There is something else you would, would absolutely have to visit when in Lille: the Lille Museum – in French it is the Palais Beaux Arts.

Some of Lille Beaux Art Museum artworks (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The museum on Place de la République, very close to both Grand Place and Place Rihour, is currently having, as the town authorities say,  a ’makeover’, so part of the façade is under canvas, but do not let this put you off. Inside the museum is great as always.

Lille Beaux Arts Museum having a ‘makeover’ (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

In my opinion this museum need not blush in the presence of Paris’s Louvre because it houses artworks of all the great artists. I will name just a few: Monet, Goya, Rubens, Picasso, Delacroix, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Rodin and Camille Claudel.

A Brueghel in the Beaux Arts Museum of Lille (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

A Chagall in Lille’s Beaux Arts Museum (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

At the moment and until January 22 2018 the museum is hosting a Millet exhibition, and believe me, it is something to see.

And yes you will be able to admire Millet’s L’Angelus!

Millet’s L’Angelus in Lille’sBeaux Art Museum (cc MarilynZ. Tomlins)

Opening hours are:

Monday: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. – Tuesday closed – Wednesday to Sunday 10a.m. to 6p.m.

It costs €11 to see both the permanent exhibits and the Millet exhibition, or €7 just for one of the two. But you MUST see both please!

More of Lille’s Beaux Arts Museum permanent works (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The museum has a snack bar and a souvenir shop. Both are expensive, but show me the museum were those are not expensive.

The town has very many eating places, all the Anglo-Saxon ones being there too, and indeed they are all over the town. The local speciality of mussels and French fries costs around €14.  But a tankard of beer is served with it!

Another of Lille’s eating places (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Lille has more to see but as those were all ‘sun and dry weather’ places and I was dressed for the ‘North Pole’, I visited only those places for cold and wet days, and of course for Christmas.

Those people in the town dealing with tourists – waiters, shop keepers, staff of information offices like the tourist office etc – all speak English, or try to. This is because the town gets many day or weekend trippers from the U.K. who can come over to France by ferry to Calais (111 kms – 68 miles) or Dunkirk (82 kms – 50 miles.  Also, the town being a border town – Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Germany within touching distance almost – the town gets many visitors from those countries, and well those nationals know English too.

UK visitors can also take the Eurostar to Lille which is a 1 hr 20 mins trainride.

Paris is 219 kms (136 miles) from Lille: it is just 59 minutes by TGV train from Gare du Nord.

I do not know about you after you’ve read this piece of mine, but I can tell you, I will visit Lille again … and soon …

 

Lille’s Yuletide and Father Christmas is reading one of my books (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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